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VOL. 127 | NO. 223 | Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Let’s Grow

Entrepreneurs, Create Your Own Maps

By Michael Graber & Jocelyn Atkinson

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MICHAEL GRABER & JOCELYN ATKINSON

Entrepreneurialism is the last frontier – an uncharted region with unprecedented, unforeseen, unknown dangers, challenges and rewards.

All adventures begin with a new map, just like the territory you charted in your business plans. You drafted this plan in the ardor of a visionary impulse, tempered with a will to thrive as you grow.

The world is in too short a supply of courage and craves its heroes, its success stories. Perhaps your story will become a light in our constellation of capitalism, a story that inspires generations, like the ones of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Fred Carl of Viking Range, or Fred Smith of FedEx.

For the real, budding businessperson, there is no choice. You know you can do something better, create a more useful product or service. The status quo won’t cut it. You’re propelled to create a better way by aptitude, circumstance, drive or a combination of all three forces. Here’s the real reason why.

In this new world, you learn who you are, what you’re worth, your capacity, who you can trust, and you come to realize, with earned depth and from experience, what things really mean. You can invent your future.

Invent: You must possess a mindset that allows quantum leaps. This is the taproot of the creative process. To invent requires skill, knowledge and passion. You must be able to lose sense of time when solving a problem while having the ability to zoom in and zoom out. You zoom into the smallest details of an invention-in-process and then zoom out to see its broadest potential market application, keeping one eye on the product and the other on the market. You adapt, as the actual finish line is not yet on the map.

Your: The key word here is you. The tense is possessive. You possess a sense of mission, a calling. You do not sacrifice your integrity for the illusion of security. You take risks because you believe in what you are doing. As a result, you trust yourself and others are willing to bet on you. You leave the safety of tenure or the golden handcuffs of a corporate job to own your own destiny. You don’t have a back-up plan.

Future: The future is the frontier you have begun to map out. Often a new map – a new way of seeing – is placed over an old map and a new era is born. The keys to this future are always found right at hand, in the present moment. Your future is defined by the actions you take today.

Let us end by telling you about a fellow adventurer, a personal star in our constellation, Michael’s maternal grandfather, Leo Brody. He had to turn down a full scholarship to Vanderbilt University to support his mother and two sisters. While working at a pawnshop on Beale Street he started repairing luggage. Along the way, he dismantled pieces, put them back together better than before, and an idea struck him like lightning. Travel was the new paradigm. Planes, trains and automobiles had replaced boats and more travelers were on the new roads.

He hustled his way to Chicago and New York with his map in hand. He sold all the large department stores on private label luggage. During the heyday of his company, it produced 2.4 million pieces of luggage a week. At his funeral it was stated he was one of the rare individuals possessed with a vision and the will to manifest it. In other words, he invented his future.

Now, it’s your turn. Such a life is not for the lily livered or faint of heart, but the treasures are too varied to describe in a short column. Take the step. Follow your calling. The world needs you. Besides, you cannot deny the adventure another second.

Jocelyn Atkinson and Michael Graber run the Southern Growth Studio, a strategic growth firm based in Memphis. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

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